July 27, 2012

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Here’s a reunion that covers a lifetime of friendship

Cynthia DewesIt’s reunion season again. Class reunions, family reunions, reunions of old retired buddies from the same office, you name it. Somehow warm weather brings them out.

One of my favorite reunions, second only to the huge Oare family reunion each July, is my high school class reunion.

Although the important reunions such as the 25- or 50-year kind involve catered dinners and cocktail hours, the monthly lunches my classmates hold in my hometown in Minnesota are less formal. And when we are there in July, we make sure we attend them.

The thing is, almost all the people there are people I have known since kindergarten.

When I look at my first grade class photograph, there are most of the same dear faces I see again every summer. After all, we were in the same school building together for 13 years!

All the girls have large hand-tied bows in their hair and are wearing dresses. Many of the boys are wearing corduroy knickers.

For the uninitiated, these are knee-length pants worn with long stockings. In cold weather, the girls are also wearing long cotton stockings held up with garters, two more anachronistic pieces of clothing unknown to today’s children.

Some in the photo are gone, but they live on in our hearts. There’s Marcie with the freckled nose and Irish twinkle, and tall, gangly Robert with his friendly, looming presence.

There’s Joanne, looking happy probably because her witch of a mother is not on the scene, and chubby Gladys of the infectious grin. There’s friendly Dickie and sweet Rosemary.

Together, we lived through the Great Depression, although to most of us it was just the usual struggle to pay the bills that we heard about from our folks.

During World War II, we bought war stamps to lick and place in our stamp books until we could redeem the filled books for a war bond. We collected tinfoil for the war effort in competition with the other grade school classes, and in junior high we printed “V-J Day” in chalk on the school sidewalk.

We went on field trips to Taylors Falls and celebrated Sadie Hawkins Day. We did the school plays and the musical concerts and the proms together. Along the way, there was a case of scarlet fever or polio here and there, and an occasional mean teacher like Miss Schlieter, the fifth-grade teacher we referred to as The Nazi.

As we progressed, a few classmates left and some were added, but we all knew each other well.

After graduation, we didn’t keep in touch with everyone, but we heard about them from others. At the formal reunions, we met new spouses, and heard about jobs and children and, sometimes, disappointments.

Occasionally, we were amused by how the others turned out. John, the quietest boy in the class for 13 years, emerged as an adventurer who married the love of his life, and is still riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He has talked more in the yearly meetings we’ve had than he ever did during all the years in school.

And there was Herbie, another quiet guy who came to our five-year reunion in a $300 suit with an attractive wife on his arm. Who knew?

My classmates are the brothers and sisters I never had. Their affection and good will have sustained me for a lifetime. I believe that what we share is the same love that God has for us, and I am grateful.
 

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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